BADGERS OF BOHEMIA (BoB) is a design studio based in seaside Scarborough, England. Our editor-in-chief found their website whilst doing some personal, interior design research. We subsequently fell in love with their vivid, yet delightfully whimsical designs. From printed fabrics to large scale murals, their work carries a Whitman-esque ethos of interconnected worlds.
With their ability to combine a sense of playfulness with great wonder, it is no surprise to learn that BoB has been commissioned for public art installations. About these projects, their creative process, and much more, the studio was kind enough to share in a series of Q&As.
Who is behind the BoB brand and who is behind the concept?
We are a duo of artists, Emily and Sefton. BoB started out as a series of designs for interiors and bloomed into a platform where our passion for creative storytelling met public art. We use an array of surfaces to share our creative ideas and concepts through art.
Both of us share a deep passion for the natural world and what part we play in this ongoing story, so we create eccentric colourful designs inspired by nature which we hope spreads joy, connection, conversation and curiosity through our creations.
How did you come up with the name?
Badgers are wonderfully aware nocturnal creatures, living in a cete or a clan, they live harmoniously in natural environments, have stunning patterned faces and love being out under stars and moonlight.
For us, the idea of a bohemian is someone that lives life to the fullest. We see life as a dance that flows, which can be filled with joy, laughter, music, love, creative spiritual connections and respect for each and all other life. We hope from this point ‘seeds are sown’ for others to come to a ‘place’ with us through the artworks, to see & feel the world again from another perspective.
There’s a narrative thread that runs through the BoB brand, stories filled with all the characters we’ve created and the places they inhabit and visit. Bohemia has become a world for us, filled with these magical places, animals, plants & life, all the time we weave more into our storyline. You can read small segments on our website which continues to grow as our work evolves.
The designs incorporate nature (flora and fauna) but have a Narnia-like quality about them. Most are the stuff of fantasy. How do you come up with them?
Our creations often come from our imaginations, but they are based on the magic of the world around us. Like all great stories, the ones which connect are those that last & those based in truth and facts to which we relate. Whilst the creations come from our imaginations, they are always based on research, engagement & connection to the magic of the world that surrounds us all. From the largest blue whale to a tiny hidden bug to discover, our artwork has lots to find.
One of the most incredible parts about being a painter or a creator of any sort, is that you must observe everything in more detail. Looking at something intently and with the purpose of understanding its form allows you to appreciate and be transfixed by the beauty and complexity of it all. We as artists can never reproduce the intricacies of nature and all its wonder, but we can bring attention to parts of that observable magic. That is why we chose to create art so full of stories and colour, why our animals have personality: because they do. They’re wild characters, and why our painted water is so full of movement.
What we see inspires us, because it is us. Now more than ever, being able to enjoy and engage with nature is incredibly important. Being able to creatively represent this by having platforms to showcase elements of the natural world is incredibly important and a privilege for us both. Hopefully through our art we can inspire the viewer to look ever closer at the fascinating world around us.
Our animals do have an element of humanness, some even play instruments, like a lemur playing a sitar or our pangolin with a mandolin. It has a whimsical element to it, this is to highlight that animals are not something separate from us but each is unique and wonderful in their own way.
You want to build awareness of the fragility of some species and the planet generally. Is there a nostalgic or wistful element to your designs, in the sense that nature in its abundance is retreating in many places around the world?
Yes absolutely, we do want to build awareness of the delicate balance of nature which sadly humans, as a collective are having a devastating effect upon. It’s incumbent upon us all now to engage. Our balance & respect for nature has become grossly out of kilter. The answer is that we’re all part players in the solutions.
In our public artwork and in our murals we often depict some of our world’s most endangered marine life, land animals and plants. We conduct research and work from the IUCN red list, as well as liaising with zoologists, botanists & marine biologists. We have also previously worked with Chester Zoo on an incredible project called Wild Worlds, this gave us an insight into their important worldwide conservation efforts.
Whilst our public installations are designed to delight the viewer with their colour and beauty, there are also many woven stories, hidden motifs and added poignant messages within the works. This gives us a chance to begin conversations, where we can talk about some of the most desperate situations faced by species on our home planet.
For instance we have painted a great white shark atop a triangle (apex) made up of shark fin shapes accompanied by the symbols for the age of the species, how many are killed a year, and the symbol for life, death & continuation. This leads to a question for the viewer. This ancient life form, the shark, a species hunted to extreme and unsustainable numbers for their fins which sadly, is for nothing more than soup. The problem with greatly impacting a keystone species like the shark is not fully known, but it’s certain to have a massive impact on the balance of the ocean.
But then we also have other art pieces which are wonderfully jovial in their message, like our mural Saturnalia which is named after an ancient festival where all are considered equal.
Our works are filled with hope, we don’t have to feel powerless, all of us have a voice. Each of us plays a part, each of us is empowered and our belief is, we can make a difference through our everyday actions and what we choose to consume. Life is really a beautiful privilege, a lesson and a ‘human’ journey for all of us, we all have the choice to engage differently at any given moment.
Do you have a favourite animal? The lemur seems to make a frequent appearance in your designs.
Obviously, the badger is very special to us, it would be difficult to pick just one animal to be a favourite but –
Emily: I think my favourite animal would be the okapi, which is a relative of the giraffe, they are the graceful and silent wanderers in the Jungle, I’ve always found their movements and colourations to be so stunning and ethereal. Plus they have super long purple tongues!
Sefton: I’m quite fascinated by the sea, I’ve always loved this other world that exists beneath the magic of water shimmering and dancing with our suns starlight, so it’s (possibly) the Cephalopoda: octopuses, nautiluses & cuttlefish. They’re the stuff of dreams, highly evolved, like us, so curious, use tools, are incredibly aware of themselves and their surroundings, colour & textural changing magicians of the ocean and then there are the giant krakens!
Whose home would you most like to design and is there a commission you would turn down?
Absolutely, we take care when looking at who we work with for public works & commissions. We have in the past turned down commissions that don’t work with our values.
Emily: the home of Jane Goodall, it would be wonderful to create a treehouse-style home filled with elements of the jungle where her heart lays.
Sefton: I would like for everyone’s home to have some of our BoB work, to remind, reconnect & re-engage with this incredible planet which will all belong and have the privilege to share.
What’s on your walls and at your home?
Artworks from around the world, some of our own works, objet d’art, plants, lots of plants, there is also the mural of Saturnalia which is surrounded by hand-painted leaves in a plethora of colours, there’s also an enormous glitterball hanging too. It’s bright, colourful, has many trinkets and beautiful things we have found and collected over the years.
If you didn’t design public artworks / murals / wallpaper / furnishings, what would you be doing?
Something else creative no doubt:
Sefton: Working drawing attention to ‘magic’ of the world around us, visually, engagingly, scientifically, spiritually, sonically with a smile and with laughter.
Emily: I have a passion for conservation so perhaps I would be pursuing a career in the sciences or dedicating myself to conservation efforts. Though working in an animal sanctuary or planting trees would also be very appealing.
What’s your secret indulgence?
Emily: I have a fascination with moss, when things get a little rough, I love to go and sit with a bit of moss and admire how complex and strange it is. It has its own little micro-ecosystem and lives in a completely different atmosphere to us. I find knowing that for a moss, life is so very different, can be very calming and nourishing for the soul. Maybe it’s not such a secret indulgence but it is a little oddity of mine. Other than that it would be watching the sunrise with a coffee in hand.
Sefton: I love mountains, woods, trees & the micro-ecosystems of forests but sea swimming is my favourite not so secret indulgence, being immersed at the line between both worlds. Allowing the energy of the sea to flow into and around your body, floating at that point where the sea’s texture pulls, styrates, dances with the sun & if you’re wearing goggles you see beneath that magic line to see the theatre of both worlds. We came from the sea, we are essentially sea hominids, connecting shorelines everywhere on one planet & joining us all and no walls, just amazing, it always makes me smile, even just thinking about it 🙂